Jacinda Ardern exit interview: Former Prime Minister describes looking for exit from major event due to pregnancy illness

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed she looked for ways to discreetly escape her first Speech from the Throne event due to sickness resulting from her then-pregnancy.

"I was seated next to the Governor-General and I had this terrible wave of nausea and I thought, I need to get out of here," Ardern said.

She was speaking to Newshub's Samantha Hayes as part of a special, in-depth interview ahead of Ardern's departure from Parliament. 

Ardern gave birth to her daughter Neve in June 2018, less than a year after becoming Prime Minister. She was just the second world leader to have a baby while in office - the first being Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto. 

Jacinda Ardern with Neve.
Jacinda Ardern with Neve. Photo credit: Getty Images.

"At the time, I was just taking every day as it came," she said. "In the first twenty weeks, I wasn't really telling anyone. That was quite a difficult period."

"I vividly remember on the day of the Speech from the Throne, so it's a very big day of pomp and ceremony. The Governor-General comes and reads the Government's statement to the House, all MPs file into the legislative chamber for the ceremony. 

"That morning I had a terrible morning sickness, I had thrown up before I came to Parliament."

She said she was "scanning around the room" trying to find the "most discreet exit".

"There was no way to be discreet because I literally was facing everybody and it took all my will to hold it together. 

"There were plenty of moments in time where these very significant things were going on, and I was just trying to manage the normal parts of being a new mum."

Ardern showed Hayes a 'runsheet' she had for when she gave birth. It showed who needed to be advised and who was responsible for what.

"We had to have this whole plan. For instance, to make sure we advise the deputy Prime Minister he would be taking over," Ardern said.

Hayes noted many of the actions had ticks beside them, which Ardern said weren't her's.

"I was not ticking this off. I had some other things going on."

Ardern took six weeks away from being Prime Minister after giving birth. She said she didn't feel like she could take any longer. 

"I didn't feel like I could and I don't believe I could. I was the Prime Minister of a coalition Government. You know, when I left for those six weeks, I handed over to the leader of another party. I was very conscious that I'd been elected to do a job and I needed to do that job."

She said she and Clarke made it work, with Neve often coming to Parliament.

"I think every parent, regardless of the circumstance, will think if only in those younger years, I'd be able to do this or that. I don't think I'm unique in that situation. 

"But I don't look back with regret because for me it was about being the best mother I could be, but also being the best Prime Minister I could be. What a privilege to be able to do both. Because I didn't think I would do either."

Jacinda Ardern exit interview: Former Prime Minister describes looking for exit from major event due to pregnancy illness
Photo credit: Getty Images.

Ardern said she just got on with it. But now thinking back, she questions how she and her partner Clarke managed it.

"It's the same way every mum does. You just take every day as it comes. One foot in front of the other."

Now that she has resigned as Prime Minister, Ardern said she has more time with her family.

"I'm just getting joy out of the little things. I took Neve to a fifth birthday party on the weekend, and, you know, halfway through, I suddenly realised that I hadn't thought about having to be anywhere else or doing anything else or leaving early. I could just be there, which was really lovely."

She said being the Prime Minister was a "hard job, but an incredibly fulfilling one". 

"I wouldn't change it for the world. I leave now with a baby girl, a partner I love, a family who still speak to me. And I hope, importantly to me, I hope with my integrity in tact."

Ardern wants Neve to know she can do whatever she wants. 

"She's not the daughter of an ex-Prime Minister. She's Neve. She's her own person. I hope that she has the same experience I hope for all girls in New Zealand, that they don't feel held back by their gender, they feel like they can do anything and they can do it their way. That's all I hope for."

Watch Samantha Hayes' full interview with Jacinda Ardern above - including Ardern's reflection on her record as Prime Minister.